The SA Department of Public Works (DPW) will dissolve the construction professions Council for the Built Environment (CBE), for failing Black empowerment.
The DPW had studied the effectiveness of the current regulatory framework for professionals in the built environment, as a driver of government’s transformation and development policies, identified three options, and called for public comment before 27 June 2014.
The Department implicitly criticises the construction professions council or umbrella body, CBE, for a pretence of self-regulation, with its six subsidiary professional councils to regulate professionals and protect the public from misconduct by registered professionals.
Under Notice 370 in Government Gazette 37653 of 23 May 2014, the DPW lists several shortcomings in the regulatory framework, including;
• lack of co-operation between the CBE and subordinate professional councils
• lack of transparency in the use of public funds
• failure and resistance to comply with Public Finance Management Act requirements
• failure to act in the interest of the Department of Public Works
• poor alignment to public policy
• lack of racial transformation in the construction professions. Only 25% of registered professionals are from previously disadvantaged groups.
No Agents for hire
In the state’s view, registration should be a means to promote and drive transformation and prevent ‘professionals or Agents for hire’ ventures emerging from loopholes in law that allow registered professionals to sign off on the work of non-registered professionals.
The DPW aims to stop the practice that avoids legal requirements, and deprives registration authorities from registration fees. Some professional councils are unable or unwilling to investigate the misconduct of members.
Umbrella professional councils banned
DPW consulted the CBE and its councils, the state Treasury, and the Department of Science and Technology, and discussed the trend towards registration boards.
Some boards follow the structure used by IOSM /SAPBC /OHSAP and its affiliates, and SAIOSH /SA IOSH. The ‘board within a body’ structure is not one of the formats proposed by the six councils, the DST or Treasury.
The state now proposes repeal of the CBE Act, and for the DPW to be the custodian of the registration process, via construction professional councils directly. The DPW could then hear appeals by aggrieved persons resulting from decisions or conduct of the relevant professional councils.
Consultants comment on professions umbrellas
Consultant Rudy Maritz commented that self-regulation worked well in some countries, yet failed dismally in others. Due to the large impact on public health and safety of construction and the built environment, self-regulation in the African context is not ideal and industry needs regulatory control via a state department.
Yet government seems keen on private boards or councils to solve regulatory issues on their behalf. Mr Nxesi and his DPW team are one of the few to admit that professional pyramid structures are not sustainable. With the six professional councils, or a united council reporting to DPW, it could advantage government’s objectives.
For professionals there remains only one benefit – the right to work. The proposed changes will speed up transformation in various professions, within government’s strategic plan, not to the benefit of currently registered persons, but for new entrants into construction-relataed professions.
The Department of Labour has legislated registration via the Construction Regulations due to supposed incompetence in construction health and safety management, yet on the other hand we seen a gradual decline in training quality for these professionals.
Perhaps a more effective way of managing professions is via one registration authority for the built environment. Why six plus the SACPCMP? The eventual regulator should have closer links with the Consumer Protection Commission, DHE, DTI and SAQA.
The various councils do not seem to have much input into the expertise of their professions. They merely rubber-stamp accredited training and CPD providers, already approved by the SAQA and the Setas.
The bulk of the BE professionals will be engineers, ECSA members, which may well become the national regulator. As on site, engineers are the highest authority in construction professions. Second to ECSA is the SACPCMP, with project managers and health and safety managers as members.
If a single regulator is not formed, the DPW is at risk of merely taking over the ineffective roles of the CBE. While the DPW may not be the ideal state department to oversee engineers, it is an established system. Moving the function to DOL, DST or DTI would be costly. Still we need more options than the DPW offers in its study, as published in the Gazette.
Professionalisation is not a cure-all. Estate agents are a typical example of regulating honest, qualified professionals, while some still work unregulated.
The SAQA policy requires professions to be involved in policy. Likewise the DPW should rather regulate and accredit its professional associations and training providers. We need a two-party system; state and professionals.
Health and safety should split
From a health and safety point of view this change may mark the split of the profession back to its original form; safety as an engineering profession, and health as a medical profession. The Health Processions Council and Engineering Council are established regulators.
Transformation should be a choice and not forced upon institutions. We cannot and should not dictate to learners in which direction they must study, just to satisfy racial quotas in a particular profession. Why are only 25% built environment professionals, previously disadvantaged people? Perhaps since the potential members are 75% in government, state organs, and business management by choice?
None of the construction-related professional bodies do a good job of promoting their professions, or health and safety, partly due to a deficient regulatory structure, fluctuating work opportunities, and maintaining barriers to entry. -Rudy Maritz.
CBE explained its health and safety functions
The CBE’s report on its own performance in the first quarter of the current financial year, notes several construction health and safety functions in its Annual Performance Plan keyed to its administration, Skills Academy, Centre for Innovation, and public interest.
“The key strategic objective is ensuring a capacitated CBE that has alignment with government’s development priorities in the built environment which include infrastructure delivery, health and safety in construction and job creation.
“Progress achieved in the first quarter includes;
• A partnership has been forged with Department of Higher Education and Training in the identification of scarce skills as part of the formulation of the skills plan for the government’s infrastructure roll out programme under the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC).
• Collaboration was established with the Department of Labour to take forward the implementation of the Health and Safety in Construction, through a signed Accord. This initiative aims to ensure that those professional councils in the built environment that are directly affected by the Accord become co-signatories of the main Accord. The CBE further aims to partner with the Department of Labour and the Councils to effectively create public awareness on health and safety issues in construction.
• A joint initiative has also been established between the CBE and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to focus at labour intensive construction demonstration sites. This is in line with the CBE’s strategic objective to support government’s development priorities on job creation.
“Of concern, is the overall 12% under-expenditure budget variance. The organisation [CBE] continued to focus on the issues of risk management during the quarter, and this resulted in new mitigating strategies being developed for the already identified risks.
On its skills programme, the CBE reported;
• “signing of a contract for grant funding by the Construction SETA (CETA) of R6.6m for the workplace training placements of 150 candidates and interns
• formulation of the workplace training model by the CBE
• reaching 55 schools for BE career awareness
• accreditation visits to academic institutions offering landscape architecture.”
Most of these functions are shared by other state, statutory, private or voluntary bodies. Duplication of built environment health and safety functions were pointed out in several posts on Sheqarica.com in the last four years.
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